Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Dungeons and Dragons: Tomb of Annihilation Unboxing

Tomb of Annihilation! 

The fifth game in the Dungeons & Dragons board game series has landed on my doorstep. The game that has been a high priority on my pull list has finally arrived! Before I dive into the deep dark jungles of Chult with my review and playthrough of the actual game, here's a video I put together for the unboxing of the components. Apologies upfront about the audio, I assure you that all subsequent videos will have a better sound quality.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Ruin of Nimbar Adventure 5: The Siege of Astifoorn

War! Astifoorn, the City of Stars is under siege. Zaldramas, the mysterious Chaos Lord has amassed an army of monsters on the outskirts of the Blessed Vale and is hell bent on penetrating the protective shields that surround the city. The enemy seeks to destroy the ancient forges atop the tower of Altoth wherein the Everlast may be reforged and the chaos driven out of Nimbar. While the remaining Wardens have separated into their own tasks of mustering forces (see: RON: Adventure 4), gathering Starfire see: RON: Adventure 3) and seeking out the last Scion of the Mages (coming soon in Adventure 6!), the fortification and protection of the city has fallen on Tarak Half-Orc, Lord Commander and Warden of the East. Skilled in warfare and combat, Tarak and his remaining War-sworn companions have secured the eastern paths leading up to the battlements at the pass of Ren, the only visible path into the vale. With the eastern front heavily fortified and imbued with deep and ancient magics, the dark tide of the armies of chaos were driven back into the shadows...

When You Start the Adventure, Read:
The eyes of the enemy are ever watchful and they learned soon of two paths, long forgotten and buried deep beneath the very foundations of the Tower of Altoth itself and stretching out, through many narrow passages and into the hidden crypts below a lost and somewhat familiar castle. Zaldramas has summoned hordes of his monsters, led by four of his most powerful generals to break the ancient passageways through the Ravenloft crypts and invade the tunnels below. Knowing that if the forces of darkness infiltrate the Tower, they will destroy the ancient forges and the Everlast will never be remade, Tarak Half-Orc and his battalion of fighters have gathered in arms in the lower foundations of the tower. Here, our brave heroes attempt to make a final stand to drive back the horde and also seal the crypt entrances to stop the monsters from entering the city!

Goal 1: Stop the monsters from getting to the Secure Exit and Tunnel Exit tiles and entering the city.
Goal 2: Seal the crypts and prevent more monsters from spawning and overrunning the lower tunnels beneath the tower!

Number of Heroes: 2 - 4 (Group Adventure). Best with 4 players (recommended).
Suggested Heroes: Tarak (WOA), Keyleth (WOA), Kat (CR), Jarlaxle (LOD), Arjan (CR)

Healing Surges: 4

Adventure Setup:
Start Tile from WOA, Secure Exit Tile, Tunnel Exit Tile, 2 x Long Hallway Tiles (WOA), 2 x Passage Tiles (WOA, connected to Long Hallway), 2 x Narrow Passage Corner Tiles (LOD), 2 x Narrow Passage Tiles (LOD), 6 x Passage Tiles (CR), 1 x Strahd's Crypt Tile (CR), 1 x Crypt of Sergei Tile (CR), 2 x Cavern Edge Tiles (LOD).
This adventure uses a pre-constructed map using the above components (see below).

Pre-Built Map Layout

Special Components in this adventure:
* All the monster tokens except for the '0 monsters' tokens, shuffled face down and separated into 2 stacks.
* Kobold Dragonlord, Werewolf, Orc Shaman, Flesh Golem, Mind Flayer and Duergar Captain villain tokens (shuffled facedown), villain cards and figurines.
* 8 x Time Tokens (or HP tokens)
* Monster card stack (from across all 3 games).
* Treasure card stack (from across all 3 games).
* 2 x Collapsed Tunnel edges (LOD).
* 1 x Crushing Walls Trap Token (CR),
* 1 x Dart Trap (CR).

* Setup the map as shown in the Adventure Setup image above. Monsters will spawn from the coffins on the 2 crypt tiles in separate waves and make their way down the tunnels.
* Your Heroes will start the adventure on the start tile as per usual.
* There are no encounter cards for this adventure.
* Shuffle the 2 monster token stacks as well as the villain token stacks. Then, without looking, place a random villain token after the 4th and 8th monster token in each stack.
* If you are playing a 2 player game, shuffle in one random villain and reduce the monster token stack by removing 5 tokens in each stack.
* If you are playing the recommended 4 player game, give each player an extra treasure card as a starting bonus.
* Divide into groups of 2 and assign your groups to 'secure' each of the tunnels. Randomly have each group select one of the 2 trap tokens and also randomly select 'even' or 'odd' for each group (explained under Tactics below).

* At the start of any Hero's hero phase flip the top of any of the monster token and place the appropriate number of monsters on the relevant crypt tile.
* Heroes may move and attack as per normal. Note the -4AC inside the narrow passage tiles applies to both heroes and monsters/ villains.
* Monsters activate as per normal and will travel down the passageway towards the heroes.
* Villains activate at the start of the villain phase as per normal for all heroes (independent of your group/ squad allocation).
* When defeating a villain, you gain 2 treasure cards for your group.
* After the first villain spawns, a Hero may attempt a suicide mission to 'seal' off the crypt by trying to reach the crypt tile and spending 1 movement action to 'seal the crypt'. Place the collapsed tunnel token over the coffin. No further monsters may now spawn from this passageway.
* When monsters reaches the Long Hallway tile, roll a D20 die at the start of your Hero phase. If the number you have rolled is even and matches your group's choice of even or odd, all monsters on and ahead of the Long Hallway tile moves 1 tile in the direction of the tiles arrow (i.e. towards the exits).

Heroes may spend 5XP to place a trap token marker on any of the normal passage tiles above the narrow passages. Traps activate whenever a monster moves over that tile. Note that traps will also still affect any hero ending their hero phase on a tile with a trap.

* If both crypt tunnels are sealed and no more monsters remain inside the tunnels, the heroes have won the adventure.
* If all the monsters are killed/ defeated and no more monster tokens remain, the heroes have won the adventure.

* If  8 or monsters escape the tunnels the heroes lose the adventure.
* Use the time tokens/ HP tokens to keep track of escaped monsters.
* Note that if a villain escapes the tunnels, it counts as 2 monsters.
* The heroes also lose if any 1 hero is killed and no more healing surges remain, the heroes have lost the adventure.

When The Heroes Are Successful In Stopping The Forces of Chaos, Read:
Victory! As the forces of Zaldramas slink back into the shadows, the tunnels below the crypts are secure. Making their way back up the tower, the battle-weary heroes return to their lodgings for some much needed rest. Along the way, they all stop by the old watering hole to ease their turmoil and mend their wounds and anguish of the day. Around them and blissfully unaware of the great dangers that our heroes have endured, the city folk of the Vale continue in drink and songs of merriment. But for our heroes, this has been a dark day. A day of sword, steel and blood. No words are spoken as they raise their goblets in a silent salute. They are the War-sworn. And this battle only just began.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

My Top 7 Reasons Why Comic Con Africa Rocked

I sit here in a surreal daze, reflecting on the awesomeness of the past weekend. As the curtains draw to a close on Comic Con Africa and the dust settles over Kyalami as the last of the die-hard fans make their long trek back home, I'm back in Cape Town and already feeling the post-Con blues setting in. I'm struggling to find the right words to put it all into context, given that I only spent a single day at the Con but to try to explain the sheer magnitude and force with which this event was planned, organized and executed was...well, to quote the good Doctor, Fantastic! 

Hats off to the organizers Reed Exhibitions Africa and ReedPOP who, in partnership with VS Gaming, brought Comic Con to our African Continent in a 3 day event showcasing the best in comic books, toys, video gaming, television, movies, sci-fi/ fantasy, anime and manga, tabletop gaming, cosplay and geek culture.

And much, much, much more. I've listed my top 7 reasons why Comic Con Africa absolutely rocked. If you were there, I would love to hear from you. What made your Con? Voice your opinions in the comments section below. There aren't any prizes but you're all welcome for cup of tea (and yes, @Zaid, samosas as well).

1. The Journey
"Oh but it is witchcraft!"

Us South Africans with our braai wors and rugby know that with any road trip, the journey is just as important as the destination and so it was, from that very first announcement way back in February, we were more than ready for the road to Comic Con Africa. The news spread like veldfire and our inner geeks melted in anticipation. September was still far away but we are used to the 'lang pad' and of course, like any really good road trip, there's got to be 'padkos' - a few bites and snacks to add to the hype.
Our padkos of course came in the form of press release announcements from the official Comic Con Africa website that had us screaming with delight: Jason Momoa, Kevin Sussman, Travis Fimmel, Jenny Frison, Yaya Han and more. Then came the list of exhibitors which totally blew me away. An entire floor for tabletop and roleplaying games? It was like my dreams had come true: Comic Con plus Gen Con in one Con in South Africa? My inner geek exploded! It sounded too good to be true. Was this fake or real? Was this a con? Or was it a Con? Was this witchcraft?
Fueling the hype and keeping us going along the road was the creation of the Facebook group Friends of Africa Comic Con which, as I write this now, feels less like a group and more like a family. Here it was that we shared and voiced our excitement with posts, ticket-scam warnings, memes, pics and of course, sneak peeks of our cosplay as the anticipation mounted.

2. The Venue
"Nothing shocks me–I'm a scientist."

Okay so, despite what master Yoda says, size matters. Well, when it comes to Comic Book conventions that is. Cape Town had its own Fancon event earlier in May and, judging by the past decade, it has continuously evolved to be bigger and better each year. The lessons learnt from this evolution must have been passed on to the Comic Con Africa organizers because I really was not expecting it to be that big.
With 3 floors of indoor exhibition & artist areas, tournament and gaming arenas, cosplay areas, screening stages, larping and outdoor food truck venues I was totally blown away by the sheer magnitude and size of the event. Yet, despite the size, thousands and thousands of us geeks flew, swung, teleported and descended upon the Con in our hordes and thralls. Yeah, there was a lot of walking and I mean a loooot of walking. If you are one of those people that count their steps, you'd be in luck and hit the 10000k mark by day 2 easily. Yet, despite the masses and crowds, the venue was very well laid out with lots of entrances and exits and lots of open rest areas should your fear of crowds or zombies get the better of you. Also, I was really happy at the availability of lockers for us cosplayers who also had bags of loot to haul around.

3. The Cosplay
"With great power there must also come – great responsibility.

This being my first Con where I would be cosplaying as Spiderman for the entire day, I was, to be quite honest, a little overwhelmed and more than a bit anxious about whether or not I would actually be able to pull this off. Should I arrive in my Spidey suit or would there be changing facilities? And if I did choose to travel in my cosplay would I seem out of place on the Gautrain? Would it be prudent to ask peeps to take pics of me since these spidey-fingers make typing or operating a camera almost impossible? What if I needed to pee? Where would I store all my loot and stuff? Eep! Is my butt being stared at right now?

All anxiety aside, the cosplayers at Friends of Africa and Comic Con Africa Cosplay laid all my worries and fears to rest with useful advice, FAQs, tips and just such awesome helpfulness that left this Spidey with a sense of being in a really friendly neighborhood. And that was when I started to have loads of fun - like hanging around the Spiderman PS4 Gaming area and watching over player's shoulders as they swung through New York City, blissfully unaware of the 'real' Spiderman standing next to them.

As for the actual Cosplayers, it was without a doubt, jaw-dropping, mind-boggling, eye-popping levels of absolute greatness. Really head on over here to check out some of the amazing pics but even those don't really do justice to the actual feeling of rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest cosplayers in Africa. You guys really put a lot of hard work into your costumes and art and it shows. Pity we never got to do that Spiderverse photo but hey, there's always next year!

4. The Guests & Panels
"Well, I mean she didn't look through me with soul-sucking ball-shriveling hatred and contempt. I like that in a woman."

Yeah, so Mamoa unfortunately cancelled and Anthony Mackie's Falcon was grounded due to bad weather (isn't the Quinjet equipped to handle storms?) but hey, at least we got loads of other guests such as Travis Fimmel and Kevin Sussman. I wasn't around for a lot of the panels and screenings but I moved across through panels from some of the local guests and a really awesome discussion by Rishal Hurbens on Artifical Intelligence. From the hype on social media and from chatting to peeps in general, there were a LOT of panels happening throughout the course of the weekend.

5. The Zaid
"Yeah, well. The Dude abides."

This list would be incomplete without mentioning The Zaid. Zaid Hassen Motala, the spokesperson for the Friends of Africa Comic Con group and well, spokesperson for all things awesome in general, kept us on our feet with interviews, news and advice. From his early 'Cosplay is not consent' videos to his almost hourly roundup of the hot and happenings around the Con, with his signature Zaid-style camera panning and shout-outs, the dude is a hero is his own right. Zaid kept it cool and entertaining, despite his constant battle with his arch enemy: The Stairs and even finding time to take selfies with his friends and a certain Spiderman :-)
Heck, the dude even had someone cosplaying him. Now, how's that for awesomeness. And and and...he tried to introduce Kevin Sussman to samosas!!! If there's a samosa reference in the last season of the Big Bang Theory I'm 'a lose my mind.

6. The Exhibitors, Artists and Food Trucks
"Gimme some sugar, baby."

This was where I went, to quote another uniquely South African phrase, 'bos'. With so many places to see and thing to buy, I was in a rut with where and when to start. But my compulsive nature has its advantages and after a few minutes of strategic planning over a refreshing mocktail and some some amazing mini donuts, I had my buying planned out:
I started in the artist alley where I picked up some awesome local artwork and comic books (Tech Noir you guys just psyched my inner cyberpunk!) Then I ran through to the 2nd floor exhibition where all my boardgaming peeps were at, bumping into some familiar faces like my friends from Pandemonium Games. Next it was the 1st floor where all the big video game exhibits were taking place and then lastly down to the ground floor where every second stall just seemed to pull me in until I refused to leave without having bought something.
The Gamatek Funko Pop store was one of the busiest as their Comic Con exclusives flew off the shelves. I managed to secure a King Deadpool as well as a few others to add to my slowly growing collection. Then there were a few stores selling some really schweet t-shirts. I got my hands on a Back to the Future Delorean T for a really good price. I also ran by the Hot Wheels stall and got a James Bond Lotus Esperit for my Bond-fan Dad and also got my greedy paws on an actual Hot Wheels Back to the Future 2 Delorean! Yes, yes...I'm a bit of a BTTF fan I know. I also got some comics (heya Readers Den!), some more Funkos (I found the LAST Iron Spider muahahahaha), some more comics, some Lego and even some more comic books....including an Amazing Spiderman #600 variant cover!
Well, I did say 'bos'  didn't I?

My only real gripe around the Food trucks was the lack of halal foods. Apart from sweet treats (and these were great), there were no trucks catering halal and we had to Uber out and back to grab some lunch which was time I could have saved on attending some more panels.

7. The Fans
"Goonies never say die!"

If Toto could bless the rains down in Africa then they also blessed the geek, you wonderful, anthropomorphic force-wielding , time-bending, phaser-blasting, nun-chuck spinning, dice-throwing, comic-book consuming rag-tag bunch of brilliant humanoids. The Comic Con Africa would not have reached its level of success were it not for all of the fans. And aren't you all just the nicest group of people on this side of the 'verse. From the polite manner in which you ask to take a photo, to constantly apologizing for accidentally knocking into me with your coffee (don't worry, no spillage cos of my spidey-sense of course), to useful hints and answers and all just being so darn nice, we showed that South Africa can indeed host an international event like a Comic Con with respect, dignity and style. We're a diverse people of many nations and many cultures. But we're all one tribe. Wakanda (and Comic Con Africa) forever.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

5 Ways Board Gaming Can Make You Better At Work

Work. That mundane reality that creeps up on us at the end of every week, darkening our rather pleasant weekends with the dismal notion of the early morning commute, traffic, endless-back-and-forth meetings, hours spent writing volumes of documentation and reports and the 40 hour week of repetitive existence. And, almost always, the constant drive to prove yourself, to excel, to ensure that the sanctity of your prosaic job-title remains securely within the bonds of 'the company'.

Given the subject matter and most of the content of this blog, you may have already guessed that I am an avid gamer, both of the video console and more so of the cardboard variety. What's not at all obvious from this blog is that I have been working within the ITS sector for over 12 years, predominantly within open source development and fairly recently shifted towards a systems architecture role. Without divulging too much details, I've experienced a lot of flavors of industry from startups, media, digital agency, retail, e-commerce, online,  and telecommunications and seen the transformations within workplaces as companies transitioned from the iron-curtained corporate models towards the more vibey, Google-styled 'tech hubs' that dominate the Internet of Things today.

The methodologies themselves have changed radically within the past 2 decades and even the way software get designed and developed has completely shifted. Gone are the old Waterfall models as Agile dominates the landscape, allowing for more effective team collaboration, transparency, throughput and cross-stream interactions between various business units. I recently did a presentation covering gamification within the workplace and how positive reinforcement through gaming mechanics can lead to effective problem solving and drive desired behaviors.

What's that you say? You do serious work and how can work and play mix?

Well, if you support that notion then you fall into the trap of polarizing work by assuming that the opposite of 'play' of 'enjoyment' is 'work' when, in fact, the opposite of play is depression [quoted: Jane McGonigal].

And, despite the digital age and the implementation of newer methodologies within business units and corporate companies, there has been a substantial increase in depression over the last decade or so. In fact, in a lot of cases, technology and digital had inadvertently prompted a spike in depression with cyber-bullying and trolling on social-media platforms a huge risk factor for influencing depression and even thoughts of self-harm and suicide. There is also the feeling of being overwhelmed and the constant drive and need to prove yourself and 'fit-in' with the techies and geek-dominated social spheres of today. Failure carries with it a deep and intense resentment, based almost wholly on fear - a decades-old paradigm that still carries weight today.

According to statistics, a greater volume of younger employees within various age groups are prone to depression at some or other stage of their careers. Stress is one of the primary culprits for heart-related concerns and also carries with it the added weight of anxiety, worry, hopelessness and self-exile.

But work-related stress, like most things in life, can be managed and work should be fun. Yes, there will be times when it feels like an endless trudge but so is dungeon crawling and as long as you keep that end goal in sight, delving into the deep dark labyrinths of the unknown on a daily basis doesn't seem all that bad. Yes, there will be unwanted surprises like a dismal roll of 1 on a D20 but at least it gives you something to remember and laugh about at the water cooler. Likewise, there will be welcome surprises like a critical roll when you least expect it leading to an unexpected perk or, better yet, a promotion. The correlations between board gaming and work are endless.

I'm not proposing a one-fits-all solution but here are some of the ways in which gaming (and board gaming) can make you enjoy work better:

1. Help You Make Strategic Choices

Choice-driven gameplay has been the standard of most RPGs since inception and often the outcome of a player's choices will affect the latter decision-making and game state. Yes, I could go charging into the Lich's lair right now with my paltry armor class and probably get annihilated or I could delve into a few side-missions first, gaining sufficient XP to level up my character so that when I eventually bump heads against said Lich, it will be more evenly matched. The same concept can be applied within the workplace of course: Take time to up-skill yourself in the expected areas of work before diving into the deep end. Within your gaming session you will definitely be presented with lots of choices and quite often, these choices may have similar weightings and won't always be easy to resolve. Weigh up your pros and cons and do a basic 2 minute Impact Analysis on which path would suit you best.

2. Enforce Effective Communication & Collaboration
As you approach the Dark Fountain you hear a sudden rustling behind you. "Quickly!" exclaims Aramir, your Eleven Ranger and party leader, "Light up a torch! Does anyone have a torch? Anyone?" In the shadows, your torch-bearing dragon-born Warrior sinks into the shadows with a whimper as the rustling turns to evil snarls. You can't be a part of a co-op gaming experience and NOT engage with your fellow team members. It's completely pointless and will have you booted off the team faster that a drunken Bard with a harp that bursts into boisterous boy-band pop songs. Yes, us geeks, techies and nerdy-folks all veer on the side of  being astutely introverted but that is kind of the reason why Dungeons and Dragons was formed: to enable us to 'actually talk to people'. With Agile and Scrum methodologies now a standard way of working at most tech companies, communicating and collaborating with fellow co-workers is expected and co-operative gaming enforces that in a really positive manner. Provided you accept that everyone's internal velocity differs, that shy Half-Orc Fighter with a crush on your Human Barbarian will, before this campaign ends, have declared her undying love amid the hundreds of slain goblins atop the crimson peak.

3. Become A Key Team Player
Once we have overcome the shyness/ communication issues and your team starts to gel and really gel well, your gaming sessions and campaigns reach epic levels of awesomeness really fast. One only has to look at the success of shows such Critical Role to realize that, having trudged through dark and dangerous domain, facing unbelievably difficult odds and overcoming many objectives, the team becomes more that just a 'team'. It actually starts to feel like a family and your drive to work/ play with your fellow members becomes less of a laborious task and more of a pleasant engagement experience. You will want to be an effective member of the team and you will want to contribute. If your specialty is in lock-picking and thievery or  arcane spells and druidic rituals, you will want to Level Up and master these skills in order to benefit the team for the next campaign. Yes, honing your needlework skills may be a nice-to-have, but it's all about 'how can I benefit my team' and this effectively leads to productiveness.

4. Understand Prioritization
Storm the castle! But wait, you haven't secured the outer borders of your own castle yet. Doesn't matter, storm the castle! But we really need to secure...Art thou deaf man! I said STORM THE CASTLE! But Majesty! The outer...Listen Pablo, my good lad, if I have to say 'Storm the castle' one more time I am going to impale you from your nether-regions with this here lance ok?
Sigh, we've all been there. We stormed the castle and the enemy counter-attacked from the outer perimeters. Our castle fell, our lands surrounded and plundered...all because we did not understand priorities. Luckily all this cost us was our dignity but in the corporate engines, poor decision-making and bad prioritization can cost millions. Gaming allows us to take a step back without incurring losses and ask the "What have we learned from this exercise" question. You could preempt risks by doing proper analysis, impact assessments and damage mitigation. Also, you should have listened to Pablo. Always listen to Pablo.

5. Overcome Fear & Anxiety
We've all been caught between a rock and a hard place at some or other point in our gaming sessions. None more so than our hapless Barbarian, who found himself trapped between trying to move a gigantic boulder or braving his fear of water and swimming out from the Underdark.  Or our Elf Ranger who shrunk into a corner at the mere sight of rats and was forced to travel through a sewer shortcut under Waterdeep. Fear of the unknown is commonplace within the work environment and the feeling of doing a task that involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and seems contrary to your very nature may seem completely overwhelming. However, with the right approach and tools those very tasks may be overcome - all it requires is a bit of intuitive thinking. Our Barbarian chose not to swim and instead, using the spell book that our Wizard dropped in haste to escape the cave trap, managed to pull off a freezing spell and then slid across the river in a graceful representation of Barbarian Swan Lake. Our Elf Ranger picked up a pet hamster called Mr Squiggles and can now tolerate rats (but not swarms of them).

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Lord of the Rings LCG: Khazad-Dum Battle Report

There hammer on the anvil smote,
There chisel clove, and graver wrote;
There forged was blade, and bound was hilt;
The delver mined, the mason built.
There beryl, pearl, and opal pale,
And metal wrought like fishes' mail,
Buckler and corslet, axe and sword,
And shining spears were laid in hoard.

Following on from our last post on the Dwarf deck builds for the Khazad-Dum expansion of the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight, is a brief synopsis on how each scenario played out as our party of Dwarves ventured further into the depths of Moria.

As mentioned before, I envisioned a retelling of the tale whereby the remaining Dwarves of Erebor made the journey into Moria to determine the fate of Balin and his company. I decided that the dwarves would follow a similar path as the Fellowship, approaching Moria by the Doors of Durin and having to deal with the silent but terrifying Watcher in the Water. Yes, I do realize that the Khazad-Dum scenarios mention the East Gate and that Durin's Doors are in the West but let's just put all differences of East and West aside for now and assume that there was only ever ONE gate.

The Watcher in the Water
Description: Tolkien mixed in with some Lovecraft flavor as our heroes stealthily try to evade being tentacle mauled by the mysterious watcher.
Fun Factor: 5/5
Difficulty: 4/5
How it went down: Tentacles! Tentacles! So many tentacles! Grasping, thrashing and striking! Our first phase started off perilously with some Turbulent Waters showing up in staging during setup as well as a Warg, a Bitter Wind treachery and the dreadful Grasping Tentacle enemy card. Of the 3 types of Watcher tentacles, the Striking Tentacle proved to be the most annoying in that it led to quite a few forced defenseless attacks. The first 2 rounds were brutal to my Dwarves with both Gimli and Dwalin hanging on to life by a thread and with little resources to spare. By round 3 I managed to sneak attack a certain Wizard into play for extra card draw which led to a really lucky draw with an Unexpected Courage and a Steward of Gondor reaching my Leadership/ Spirit deck.  Lore/ Tactics were a little low on resources but I managed to beeline Erebor Record Keeper into play along with a few Veteran Axehands for extra attack. By round 7 Gloin, now equipped with a Narvi's Belt, a Steward of Gondor and a Self Preservation managed to pop a few resources over to tactics which led to Gimli acquiring a shiny new Citadel Plate as well as a Dwarven Axe on an already booted Dwalin. With attackers in place and a few allies for defense, our Dwarf volley went to work and laid waste to 2 tentacle enemies as well as a pesky Warg that kept biting our behinds and retreating to staging.  We were well into the 10th round and questing strongly, despite running afoul of a Stagnant Creek, Makeshift Passage and 2 Wrapped treacheries, one of which we cancelled using A Test of Will. 2 More tentacle enemies hit our staging just as we cleared The West Door and The Watcher approached. The Seething Lake became just that: A lake filled with Tentacles as another Grasping Tentacle returned to staging along with some Black Uruks which forced me to drop off a Narvi's Belt from Bifur. At this point we had a total of 3 tentacle enemies and the Uruks as well as a few locations and a Makeshift Passage to overcome as the active location. Luckily, 2 copies of Born Aloft allowed Gandalf to jump into play for a double attack which saw some tentacles hitting the hot grill with some Wizard Wasabi. Gimli and a Gondorian Spearman managed to snuff out the remaining enemies who were already wounded thanks to Thalin's questing attack ability. A Shadow of the Past was in hand and we managed to pop the Striking Tentacle back from the encounter discard pile, discard Shadowfax from our hand and overcome the Durin's Door riddle. Funnily enough, during this very round, with no tentacle enemies in play but the Watcher, Gimli and his 2 Veteran Axehands went into a berserker rage and managed to kill off the Watcher, just as the Durin's Door's opened!
Closing Thoughts: Overall a really fun scenario with some harsh enemies and treacheries to overcome. Like with my run through of Conflict at the Carrock, it helps to quest slowly for the first part of the quest, building up your resources, weapons and allies before facing off against the dreaded watcher.

Into the Pit
Description: Location, location, location! From the East Gate to the First Hall to the Bridge of Khazad-Dum this scenario has your heroes test their wit and skill as super fast questing real-estate agents.
Fun Factor: 3/5
Difficulty: 2/5
How it went down: After defeating The Watcher and with a threat of 37/ 39 we decided not to linger around the Doors of Durin and pressed on into Moria, keeping all of our threat, cards, allies, damage and attachments intact. With the East Gate as our active location, we snapped the Cave Torch onto Bifur and we were off to seek our the company of Balin in Moria. A few Branching Paths and Crumbling Ruins later we ran into a Fouled Well which we chose to surge which caused a Dreadful Gap to hop into play with a staggering threat of 13 to overcome. Worst off, we ran into a Cave In which we declined the option to surge (one heavy location lesson learned!). But, our Leadership/ Spirit deck was quick on the questing draw with Arwen, Faramir and Sailor of Luhn worthy questing allies. We also managed to get the card draw engine rolling with the Second Breakfast - Ancient Mathom strategy which also netted a few Born Alofts back from discard for our Tactics/ Lore sphere which in turn led to a double dose of Gandalf, who, along with Shadowfax, wide awake and ready after a second breakfast, managed to get our willy Wizard both questing heavily and attacking a few goblin enemies in our staging. By round 6 we had cleared the East Gate and with the help of a Northern Tracker and Untroubled by Darkness we managed to hop over the First Hall and past the Bridge of Khazad-Dum. Some knife-work by Legolas made quick work of the Goblin Patrol that showed up in Phase 2 and powerhouse Gimli tackled the Patrol Leader without a drop of sweat in his beard. Three rounds later and we were into the pit, clearing the last and final phase of this adventure without any real difficulty. Our threat levels were hovering around the 45/46 mark at this point though so decided to take a moment to gather our thoughts for some retrospect.
Closing Thoughts: This scenario felt rushed for the most part. Your eagerness to get into Moria and on to the next set of Adventures will have you questing hard for the first half and then facing off against a few meager goblins in the second half. I found it lacked a bit of a challenge IMHO. There are a few nasty locations to get around but my Leadership/ Spirit deck was well equipped with solid questing allies with a few cheap location management cards thrown in to my Tactics/ Lore deck.

The Seventh Level
Description: Stab, stab, roll, duck, evade, slash, flick, poke, punch, pummel!
Fun Factor: 4/5
Difficulty: 3/5
How it went down: We started this adventure from scratch, resetting our threat dials, clearing our playing areas of allies and attachments and drawing a new starting hands of cards.  On our way up to the Seventh Level we ran into some Goblin Tunnels but since we had not quested yet, no progress was lost. Unfortunately, around the corner was a Cave Troll and while we weren't quite ready to engage the Troll, the 4 threat in staging made for losses in our early game for questing. We ran our threat level up by 4 by the time we had hit the 6th round. Around round 10, Lore of Imladris managed to get all damage healed off a mortally wounded Gimli and with a few Quick Strikes and Feints we were able to knock off a few pesky goblins off of our stage. By the 13th round, much to our relief, we encountered a Plundered Armory which allowed us to snap a Citadel Plate on Gimli. Leadership/ Spirit had a few good questing allies at this time with Faramir in play, along with a Lorien Guide and 2 Snowbourn Scouts for a bit of extra boost to questing. With Bifur holding on the Book of Mazarbul, we searched eagerly for the chamber, worried now about the fate of cousin Balin whom we though would be standing ready with 'roaring fires, malt beer and ripe meat off the bones. Alas, as we cleared the first phase we happened across the inner chamber and the tomb of Balin, last Lord of Moria. But this time, we had 2 Cave Trolls, a Goblin Archer and 2 Goblin Spearmen engaged with both players but our Dwarves had rallied. We were ready to avenge the death of our dear cousin. Longbeard Orc slayer made his appearance then and, with Thalin's help, managed to cull the ranks of our enemies. Gimli and Dwalin (with the help of Longbeard and a fine Dwarven Axe) managed to severe the heads off of the trolls. We had cleared the Seventh Level.
Closing Thoughts: I enjoyed the combat aspect of this scenario with hordes of goblins and even two trolls making an appearance at one stage. Definitely more enjoyable than our previous scenario although the enemies do become a bit monotonous towards the end and it starts to feel a lot like a hack-and-slash game minus the loot. I did have a lot of fun with different combos and tricks but, despite a few nasty shadow cards, never really felt challenged to the point of losing.

Flight From Moria
Description: Like getting to work only to realize you forgot your laptop at home and then going home only to realize you left your house keys on your desk at work and then going back to fetch your keys and coming home only to realize your laptop was in your car all along. Yes....frustrating.
Fun Factor: 4/5
Difficulty: 4/5
How it went down: With The Nameless Fear breathing down our necks we pressed on with our 36/39 threat as we sought a passage out of Moria. We decided to Head Up, running into a Stray Goblin and some Undisturbed Bones which saw a Zigil Miner and Hennermarth Riversong leave play. A great Cave Troll came charging our way as we took a Wrong Turn and then we retreated to a Hasty Council with 2 more enemies and a lashing from the Nameless Fear's A Foe Beyond almost putting an end to Gloin. Luckily, he was citadel plated and with Self Preservation snapped on for that extra medical cover. With an Orc Drummer beating more loudly we lost Arwen in a Sudden Pitfall and were forced to Head Down after some New Devilry came into play. By this time, we managed to get Stand and Fight into play which brought Arwen back and then a second Stand and Fight popped Hennemarth back into play who, along with Rumor of the Earth, gave us some foresight into what nastiness lay waiting in the encounter deck. With our threat rising and a second New Devilry and a Shadow of Fear bringing even more treachery to our plight, we doubled back to another Hasty Council before Heading Down once more to a Massing in the Deep which saw yet another Great Cave Troll make an appearance. With our path Blocked By Shadow, Thalin fell as a second sudden pitfall led to the death of our greatest questing Dwarf. With heavy hearts we trudged on, Heading Up again and eventually stumbled across a Narrow Path which led to some Abandoned Tools being attached to Gimli. Ererbor Record Keeper and Unexpected Courage allowed the stout dwarf to quest heavily but Dwalin, taking the brunt of an attack by a troll fell too in Moria, just as our dwarves were beginning to see light. With our threat bubbling at 46/48 we Escaped From Darkness, leaving the deep sadness and dark of Khazad-Dum behind us.
Closing Thoughts: A lot more challenging because of the way the quest deck cycles. I struggled to get to some abandoned tools for many, many, many turns and when it eventually surfaced I managed to squeeze my remaining dwarves out of Moria with quick ease using Unexpected Courage and Erebor Record Keeper. Alas! The escape from Moria was arduous and treacherous and, much like cousin Balin, both Dwalin and Thalin were lost and fell into shadow. All them 'alin' cousins just keep fallin' it seems.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Board-Gaming Retrospect: My Dungeons & Dragons Journey

Like so many other great things, my D&D journey began in the late 80's/ early 90's. Well, to be precise, it began almost undeniably with comic books. Let's zip back a few years and revel in the nostalgia of it all...

Ah, the great eighties...what a time dude, what a time. There I was, the quintessential 11 year old 80's nerd: corduroy trousers, knitted jersey, North Star trainers and of course, a Sony Walkman pumping out all the beats that were groovin' on the streets. My Friday afternoons were generally spent hunched over a pile of comic books in my Dad's store with a bottle of Marshall's soda and a bag of Nik-Naks. And man did I read a lot of comic books. From the earliest I can remember being the kid-friendly Casper & Wendy Harvey comics to the late 80's Action Comics, Superman, Detective Comics, Batman, The Justice League, Spiderman, 2000AD, Judge Dredd and of course, my all time favorite - The Shadow. My awesome dad, being a comic book geek himself, fed into my habit and my love for comic books grew. Surprisingly, I read more DC stuff back then. Unsurprisingly most of the comic books smelled strongly of cheesy Nik-Naks ever after.

It was around the summer of '92 while paging through a copy of Marvel's Nightcrawlers' series that I happened across a 2-page sprawl for TSR's Dragon Quest: A game for heroes in search of a REAL adventure. Needless to say I was totally and completely blown away.

Prior to this my exposure to role-playing and miniature gaming was limited to a brown 'paddington' styled suitcase filled with tiny plastic figurines of green, yellow and grey army men with an assortment of tanks, a few cowboys and a few plastic knights. That's not to say I hadn't given thought to gamifying my miniatures. Heck, my brother, cousin and I had our fair share of war campaigns that even ran on for weeks with those little plastic armies of ours. Of course, the combat aspect of it was limited. OK, truth be told it was all pew-pew and no real strategy but...we were roleplaying in our own way. Just without any polyhedral dice.

So, when I happened across an advert for a Dungeons and Dragons type-of-game, it kinda got my creativity and already fervent imagination doing the moonwalk over the hood of a Delorean. So I started looking for anything I could find on Dungeons and Dragons related. Unfortunately, South Africa at the time was probably the furthest planet from the universe and our censorship laws so stringent that most of the really good D&D stuffs never got to my hood. And, if ever it did, it would probably be deemed satanic and I would be on my way to hell with scorn and a 'tsk, these laaities ner!' (Translated: Tsk, these kids of today hey).

So, my D&D exposure remained limited to the 2-page advert for TSR's Dragon Quest.
Not that it wasn't useful. There was enough information inside the ad to allow me to actually build and invent something tangible. My first campaign was a bunch of plastic knights mixed with cowboys and a few war veterans on a chessboard with a 6-sided die. And, all modesty aside, at 9 years old, it was a game of pure freaking awesomeness. But, this was the early 90's and us kids got  quickly sidetracked by Ninja Turtles, arcade gaming, movies and other geeky stuffs.

There were a few more unexpected D&D type lucky packets that popped up from now and then such as The Ancestral Trail, a partwork fantasy magazine that had elements of roleplaying in it but more story-driven and not really a full on gaming RPG.

It was not until the mid 90's that my obsession into the world of boardgaming, miniature gaming and dungeons and dragons would really take off. At the time I was hooked onto computer gaming, more so towards the latter part of the 90's with games such as Warcraft, Age of Empires, Diablo, Doom and Heretic keeping me occupied for hours on end (and motion sick after playing Doom). At the time there was a store in Cape Town's CBD that sold imported magazines by the kilo and visiting the kilo-shop became something of a monthly ritual for me as many of the imported computer magazines had free demo disks (and stiffy disks!) which fed into my PC gaming obsession. It just so happened that one such visit to the store landed me a copy of White Dwarf and my introduction into the Warhammer universe and real miniature wargaming. And so the White Dwarf became part of my monthly magazine pulls. Oddly enough I have never bought any of the Citadel minis but I bought the magazines purely for the concept and ideas...and also because they were freaking cool.

Pretty soon I had dusted off my old army men and knights and had engineered a fairly complex system of movement and attack but the story and world building element was sorely lacking so I shelved my ideas for a time and went on to highschool. It was here that geekdom sort of reached its pinnacle with countless Saturdays with friends spent over at the local comic books and gaming stores just hanging out, trading cards, sketching and coming up with ideas. It was here also that I first got into playing 'other' sorts of games like Magic The Gathering, Lord of the Rings, Netrunner and the Star Wars CCG.

Then The Phantom Menace happened, we all went off to University and, like so many out there, our paths diverged, people moved on, got married, had kids...
Then, after hitting the big 30 and roughly 25 years of comic book geekery, that I found myself migrating towards forming a dedicated gaming group. We had some poker groups and a few avid dominoes players but something was amiss: I wanted tabletop gaming experience but also that same magic that went along with roleplaying.

From my first blog post our first foray into gaming started with Munchkin which, despite having outlived it's fun factor, was actually met with critical acclaim among my circle of (backstabbing!) friends.
My next venture was a co-operative game in the form of Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game which has become my second favorite solo-deckbuilder and go-to game for when I need to scream in space where nobody can hear me. Ghostbusters was next in line, this one actually getting to our gaming group table and a quick, fun game but lacking in strategy and complexity. It's still a fun game and the minis are awesome but, apart from my kids, it has not really seen much gameplay since. But it is Ghostbusters and I refuse to part with it, albeit only for the awesome minis. Next, came my favorite deckbuilder: The Lord of the Rings Living Card Game and, despite my minimal card pool, I still venture into Middle Earth from time to time.

Then, in September 2016, for my birthday, my amazing & wonderful wife surprised me with a copy of a game that had been on my pull list for a long time but totally out of budget: It was Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft. It suffices to say that I was completely and totally blown away. It was as if the 2 page TSR comic book sprawl had finally materialized into something tangible. Here was a game that had everything going for it that I loved: Awesome heroes and villain minis, dark and gloomy dungeons, a fantastic story arc, simplistic rules, cards and powers, replay-value and customization. And, of course, a 20-sided die. The Legend of Drizzt followed soon after and then came Wrath of Ashardalon (and hopefully soon Tomb of Annihilation). It wasn't long before I was creating custom campaigns and long sprawling story arcs that had heroes venture into deep and endless dungeons.

Judging by the number of times this game has hit our table, and my unquenchable thirst for all things D&D related, it appears that my D&D journey is far from over. Where to from here? Well, I'm off to Comic Con Africa next month where I hope to pick up some more D&D/ Boardgaming loot and, of course, to get a few comic books. Because, lets face all started with comic books.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Lord of the Rings LCG: In Moria, In Khazad-Dum!

"The world is grey, the mountains old,
The forge's fire is ashen-cold;
No harp is wrung, no hammer falls:
The darkness dwells in Durin's halls;
The shadow lies upon his tomb
In Moria, in Khazad-dûm."

Having previously blogged about the Lord of the Rings Living Card Game by Fantasy Flight, I have continuously found myself returning to Middle Earth to explore the fantastic worlds of Tolkien. My recent attempts have been in envisioning a retelling of the tale whereby the remaining Dwarves of Erebor make the journey into Moria in search of Balin and his company. As my LOTR LCG journey was very late in the making, my card-pool was rather limited, given that most of the adventures and expansions from the earlier sets are out of print. Nonetheless, I built two Dwarf decks (Leadership/ Spirit and Tactics/ Lore) and forged headlong into the depths of Khazad-Dum, trudging first off in the dark pools outside Durin's Gate where the mysterious Watcher in the Water lay hidden.

These are the decks I forged for this undertaking (explanations and strategy follows). The card pool is derived from the Core set, Shadows of Mirkwood (Conflict at the Carrock, A Journey to Rhosgobel, Return to Mirkwood), Dwarrowdelf (Khazad-Dum, The Watcher in the Water), The Treason of Saruman Saga Expansion and the Grey Havens Deluxe Expansion.

Leadership/ Spirit Dwarf Deck:
  • Heroes: Leadership: Dain, Gloin
  • Heroes: Spirit: Dwalin
  • Allies: Leadership: Faramir (1), Brok Ironfist (1), Longbeard Orc Slayer (1), Eldahir (1),  Snowbourn Scout (2), Guard of the Citadel (1)
  • Allies: Spirit: Arwen Undomiel (1), Zigil Miner (2),  Lorien Guide (1), Northern Tracker (1), Sailor of Lune (1)
  • Allies: Neutral: Gandalf (2)
  • Events: Leadership: Parting Gifts (1), Grim Resolve(1), Valiant Sacrifice (2),  Ever Vigilant (2), Second Breakfast (2),  Durin's Song (2), Sneak Attack (2)
  • Events Spirit: The Galadrim's Greeting (1), Stand and Fight (2), Strength of Will (2), Untroubled by Darkness (2), Dwarven Tomb (1), A Test of Will (2)
  • Attachments: Leadership: Steward of Gondor (2), Celebrian's Stone (1), Narvi's Belt (2)
  • Attachments: Spirit: Ancient Mathom (3), Unexpected Courage (1)
  • Attachments: Neutral: Resourceful (1), Shadowfax (1)
Tactic/ Lore Dwarf Deck:
  • Heroes: Tactics: Gimli, Thalin
  • Heroes: Lore: Bifur
  • Allies: Tactics: Veteran of Nanduhirion (1), Veteran Axehand  (2), Legolas (1),  Gondorian Spearman (1)
  • Allies: Lore: Longbeard Map-Maker (1), Erebor Record Keeper (1), Erebor Hammersmith (1),  Miner of the Iron Hills (1), Daughter of Nimrodel (1),  Henamarth Riversong (1), Gleowine (1)
  • Allies: Neutral: Gandalf (2)
  • Events: Tactics: Khazad! Khazad! (3), Quick Strike (2), Feint (2) 
  • Events Lore: Secret Paths (1), Rumor from the Earth (0), Lore of Imladris (2), Ancestral Knowledge (2) 
  • Attachments: Tactics: Raiment of War (1), Dwarven Axe (2), Blade of Gondolin (1), Arod (1), Dwarrowdelf Axe (1), Citadel Plate (2),  Born Aloft (2)
  • Attachments: Lore: Forest Snare (2), A Burning Brand (2), Self Preservation (2), Rivendell Bow (1),  Legacy of Durin (2), Explorer's Almanac (2)
  • Attachments: Neutral: Boots from Erebor (2)
Scenario Specific:
  • The Watcher in the Water: Shadow of the Past (3).
I stuck with the base sphere strategies from my passage through Mirkwood cycle, despite having been sorely tempted to switch it all up with Spirit/ Tactics and Leadership/ Lore decks but this was my first playthrough and, hobbit modesty aside, I wanted to play to win.

Strategy: Tactic/ Lore

So, no surprises - my Tactics/ Lore deck is primed for combat with lots of battle-ready allies and an arsenal of attachments to both wield and withstand serious damage. And with a bit of Lore healing and knowledge in place for location control.

The basic strategy is to tank Gimli with a Citadel Plate, Self Preservation and quick readying via either Unexpected Courage or Erebor Record Keeper to allow our hardy dwarf to both defend and swing his axe in for the kill.
Thalin is our main Questor in this deck, providing much needed damage to any unexpected nasties popping off the encounter deck. With a readying event and a sharp axe and Thalin could also provide some additional attack on an ugly goblin swarm.
Bifur is mainly a resource entity, providing resources to our Lore sphere but also functions as a defender with a Burning Brand and Boots from Erebor crucial to his ability to defend. Mostly though, his 3 willpower (2 + 1 from Dain Ironfoot's ability) makes him more of a viable questor.

Supporting our heroes are a host of fairly low-cost Dwarf allies from both spheres. Veteran of Nanduhirion is probably the most expensive of the lot but is amazing with a 3 attack (4 with Dain). Slap a Raiment of War or a Khazad! Khazad! on top of either the grizzled Veteran or the cheaper Axehands and you have a slaughterhouse of attack in this deck. The other dwarf cards - Hammersmith, Miner and Longbeard are key anchors for questing or, if needed, defense. Playing all of these dwarf allies along with Legacy of Durin gives this deck some needed card draw.

Our dwarf company also befriended a group of Silvans to ease their arduous journey. We have the Daughter of Nimrodel to heal our wounds, Henemarth with his keen Elven eyes peering into the encounter deck and of course, everyone's favorite wood-elf, Legolas, for those elf-dwarf bromance moments. Getting Legolas on board with Arod and a Silvan Bow means we can rely on Tactics to support our Leadership/ Spirit decks when the enemies start ranking up.
Some staple allies are included such as the ever useful Gandalf who I coupled with 2 copies of Born Aloft to sort-of sneak attack the pointy haired wizard back into our hand. We even have a certain Rohan minstrel along to sing us a few ballads (and draw us an extra card) and a chump blocker Gondorian Spearman.

On the events cards, again a few staples such as Quick Strike and Feint and, of course, the powerful Khazad! Khazad! to ramp up our attacks. Lore gives us a bit more healing with Lore of Imladris and foresight with Rumor from the Earth (in case Henemarth goes into hiding) but also some strong location management with Ancestral Knowledge and Secret Paths being key.

Strategy: Leadership/ Spirit:

So this is sort of an all-round deck, with a strong emphasis on resource generation, questing, card draw and dwarf ally support.

While Gimli is seen as my attack powerhouse for my Tactics/ Lore deck, Gloin is essentially my money-maker who, coupled with a Steward of Gondor and some quick healing from either Self Preservation or Daughter of Nimrodel makes for an exceptional revenue-model. Adding on a Narvis Belt for Gloin ensures that we can share those resources across spheres and cards like Resourceful will ensure that the money keeps flowing.
Dain is basically, well Dain...The quintessential hero for a successful dwarf deck with his +1 attack and +1 willpower to ALL dwarfs. The dwarves simply refused to leave home without their Ironfoot leader.
Dwalin is my mini-tank with some clever threat reduction.

While not as ally-driven as the previous deck, we do have some powerful dwarves in the form of Longbeard Orc Slayer and Brok Ironfist (if I can get him in play) which mirrors the Veteran Dwarf Tactics combatants. I threw in Zigil Miner to benefit from the the 2 questing, 2 attack boost from Dain and also for the extra card draw from Legacy of Durin. To date, I have not yet successfully used the Miner's action but as a low-cost dwarf ally, he is great.
Most of our allies for this deck are heavy questors with Faramir, Arwen and Sailor of Lune providing some impressive questing stats. Northern tracker and Lorien Guide provides both questing and location management.
Then, of course, we have a few regular joes such as Gandalf, some Snowbourn Scouts and a Citadel Guard. I threw in Shadowfax as a nice-to-have once-off for Gandalf, provided we have enough resources (which in this deck, there is really no scarcity of).

Card draw is seriously lacking in both decks, despite having Gleowine and Legacy of Durin at hand. This is why I have 3 copies of Ancient Mathom thrown in. There's going to be a lot of location management in the depths of Khazad-dum and having the Mathom 3 card draw attachment is key to successful deck scrimmaging. One of the ways to capitalize on card draw is with the Second Breakfast event card which allows us to pop Mathom back into our hand from the discard pile. And because this is more of a buffet breakfast, our Tactics/Lore team gets to pull up any any axes or plates they may have dropped along the way. Or, better still, a Born Aloft which allows us some clever Ally work. And then 2 copies of Valiant sacrifice for even extra card draw.
Using this nifty engine along with Gandalf once netted me an 11-card draw in one turn which primed my Tactics team for an all-out Dwarven assault!

There are a few more essential events such as Sneak Attack, A Test of Will, Ever Vigilant and some soothing Durin's Songs but also Untroubled by Darkness and Strength of Will for questing and location management. As we have a lot of cheap dwarf allies in our Tactics/Lore deck, I threw in two copies of Stand and Fight to add some firepower to this side.

Additions/ Changes:
Apart from Hennemarth and Rumor from the Earth, encounter-deck peeking is kind of lost in these decks. Now, with Watcher in the Water, knowing the title of the top card of the encounter deck is crucial to solving the Durin's Gate riddle. Which is why I included 3 copies of Shadow of the Past - to be able to bump up the top of the encounter discard to the top of the encounter and get through the gate before the Watcher crushes us.

So, those are my 2 Dwarf decks for our journey into Moria. I'm about a quarter of the way through, having beaten off the Watcher and made it past the First Gate. A battle report of how it all went down will come through soon. Wish me luck!